What’s Going On?
It looks like the NHL has finally cottoned onto the fact that helmets, jerseys, shorts etc are all super valuable sponsorship real estate. The reaction of fans has been somewhat mixed. For some reason, this is a big deal. Taking money to pop a company’s name on kit is nothing new in the world of most sports everywhere.
#BREAKING: Sources say the #NHL Board of Governors could approve helmet ads for the '20-21 season as early as today, adding that it is "likely" the measure is approved in today's BOG call (@markjburns88).
— Sports Business Journal (@sbjsbd) December 17, 2020
My own footy team (Newcastle) have had a sponsorship logo emblazoned across the centre of their shirt for as long as I’ve been alive. The strangest thing to me is why North American teams haven’t adopted this earlier. It’s just one of those parts of sport that’s taken for granted. I’ll say that helmet stickers look weird cos they’re stickers, but the chest, sleeves, shorts, all good.
There’s money to be made to. Manchester United’s deal with Chevrolet is worth about $80 million a year. Of course United are one of the biggest brands in the world, but even if the NHL teams could bring in a fraction of that, it’s all money in the bank that can be reinvested back into the team. It can be taken too far, international teams are often plastered with sponsors, but they don’t have the same level of funding available. There’s a good compromise to be made.
What’s The Big Deal?
There has been the odd controversy over sponsors but as long as the partnership works then there’s no real argument why the NHL teams can’t bring logos into their jersey design. When Newcastle partnered with the now-defunct payday loan misery-bringers Wonga? That was a step too far, but that was a blip in a history of sponsors that have otherwise never stopped me buying a shirt.
I don’t buy the argument about tradition either, the game you’re watching isn’t anything like the game your great-grandad played. It’s a giant corporate behemoth and that’s not going to change any time soon. Not wanting to buy a jersey as you don’t want to advertise another company? You’re already advertising Adidas. That swoosh on your Nikes? Advertising. That badge on the hood of your car? Advertising. All those corporate give-away nights? Advertising.
I don’t know what picture-postcard ideal people are trying to hold onto, but the NHL’s financial model is already restricted by its TV deals. Add to this the fact that it’s a winter sport that’s only draws a fraction of the viewers that other North American sports do. If the future involves sticking a Chevrolet logo on your jersey, then the only thing I don’t understand is why it’s taking so long.